June 11, 2013; Herald Online (Rock Hill, S.C.)

Observing that they are “natural partners,” Eileen Fitzgerald, the CEO of NeighborWorks America, is calling for nonprofit credit unions and nonprofit community development organizations to work more closely together for the benefit of low and moderate income communities.

Fitzgerald made the remarks at the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions conference in Baltimore last week where she described “two great examples of nonprofit and credit union financial capability partnerships.” From the Press statement:

“NHS of Greater Cleveland recently formalized a partnership with NoteWorthy Federal Credit Union to provide financial counseling to low- to moderate- income artists in northeast Ohio.…The credit union refers members who have applied for a loan and are likely to be denied to NHS of Greater Cleveland for financial counseling. NHS counselors meet one-on-one with the customer, develop a written plan of action, and follow up.”

The partnership results in a customer with a better credit profile, prepared to build their own financial future, and NHS of Greater Cleveland earns a fee for the service therefore increasing its financial strength.

In her remarks, Fitzgerald also talked about a guaranteed loan program between NeighborWorks Montana, a NeighborWorks America affiliate based in Great Falls, where the nonprofit provides a loan guarantee that enables its credit union partners to make unsecured loans to borrowers who would usually obtain credit from high-cost payday lenders. The NeighborWorks Montana and credit union partnership enables customers to obtain unsecured personal loans at a rate close to sixteen percent annually, well below the triple-digit rates offered by many payday lenders.

Fitzgerald says that many opportunities for credit union and nonprofit community development partnerships also exist in homeownership and housing counseling.

NPQ would love to hear about any programs you know that are creative collaborations between community groups and nonprofit credit unions.—Ruth McCambridge